In this episode, I critique Lierre Keith, author of The Vegetarian Myth, on Steven Crowder’s Podcast, Louder with Crowder. Lierre, a long time vegan gone meat eater, and Steven a far right political commentator, discuss veganism and animal agriculture. As always, I’d love to hear what you think on the subject matter of the video and If you like my channel and the content I produce, nothing helps me reach a wider audience then likes, shares and comments. Now with all that self-serving stuff out of the way, lets get started.
Lierre Keith – The Vegetarian Myth
Lierre Keith, the author of the 2009 book entitled The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice and Sustainability, claims to have been a vegan for over 20 years. She blames her vegan diet for her numerous chronic health problems. She did a 180 and now eats a meat focused menu, and devotes a lot of her life to combating the vegan movement.
Her book has come under a lot of scrutiny due to its lack of primary sources, and reliance on the opinions of her favourite popular authors, who they themselves do not provide any primary sources. Additionally, Lierre has an indebted relationship to the Weston A. Price Foundation, a non credible organization, founded by a dentist in the 1930s who made sweeping assertions on human health based on his observation of indigenous populations. The Weston A. Price Foundation has taken to champion a pro-meat and dairy agenda, and take on the growing vegan movement.
Steven Crowder is a conservative political commentator, Christian and host of Louder with Crowder, a podcast primarily covering politics and culture.
With that background info out of the way, lets get on with it.
Lierre makes sweeping assertions about why people go vegan, and how long they stay vegan. She claims that most vegans choose this diet/wordview because of exposure by a vegan friend. This may be true for some, but she does not give any citation to corroborate her claims… not even in her book. The same can be said regarding her statement that most new vegans give it up within 3 months. Even if it were to be true, what does that say about veganism? It says more about human nature and our inability to keep to major changes that impact our daily lives on so many levels, then some kind of blight against veganism. Going vegan ought to be an informed decision based upon knowledge acquired through credible sources, not a decision based upon acquiring friendship, standing in social circles, or an appeal to emotion.
Lierre asserts that her health degraded after going vegan. She also asserts that she knew exactly what she ought to be eating to be a healthy vegan, yet it did not help. Maybe she was, maybe she wasn’t. Only Lierre knows what she was actually eating, so I can’t claim that she was doing veganism wrong. From her book, Lierre states that she ate only carbohydrates, and if thats the case, its little wonder she got ill. Our bodies need more then carbs to be healthy. We also need to consume fat, protein, vitamins and minerals to keep our bodies in optimal health. A carb focused diet is not healthy.
Lierre has also stated elsewhere that she been battling health issues her whole life, even before her years as a vegan. Perhaps her angst against veganism is due to the realization that a vegan diet is not a cure for all your ailments. Some vegans make grand claims stating that a vegan diet makes you immune to cancers and other diseases. This is not true. What is true is that eating a balanced vegan diet you decrease your risk of many serious illnesses, but there is no magic cure. Knowledgeable health professionals who keep up to date with peer reviewed studies, state without question that a properly planned vegan diet is healthy for all stages of life. I don’t know about you but I take my dietary advice from dietary and medical professionals, not anecdotal personal experience from a disgruntled ex-vegan.
Im not sure where Steven gets the impression that vegans believe if you eat animals you hate animals. I don’t think I’ve ever thought that. I’m not a vegan because I hate plants. I am vegan because I can see the harm to animals, the planet and to myself caused by animal agriculture. I think what Steven is picking up from vegans is anger and annoyance at the cognitive dissonance he and other animal loving meat eaters exhibit. If you can love animals, care for them, acknowledge their ability to enjoy life, and their ability to suffer, how can you then eat other animals who have the same capacity? I would imagine that Steven and others like him attempt to resolve this dissonance by asserting the necessity of eating animal products to be healthy. If it were really necessary to eat animals to be healthy, then killing and eating them, however much we may not like it, would be necessary. The reality however is that eating animals for the large majority of people, especially in more affluent countries, is not a necessity.
Im sorry, but I have a hard time believing that Lierre actually receives legitimate threats against her life from anyone. What I imagine she gets is a lot of online hate, much like feminists Anita Sarkeesian and Suey Park. Online threats of violence are aplenty, and while I wish the internet wasn’t a safe haven for immature people protected by a shroud of anonymity, its unfortunately to be expected when you hold views that are in violent opposition with the large majority of people. Seems to me Lierre is living up the SJW victimization card in order to garner sympathy for her cause.
Wow, doomsday fear tactics to bring out an emotional response. If we continue to farm the way we do, we are going down a path to further climate change and top soil erosion. Agriculture is as a whole is the most destructive human activity on the planet. What Lierre fails to mention is that the much of the land grown crops are destined not for direct human consumption, but instead animal feed. 70% of all agriculture land and 30% of the ice-free terrestrial surface of the planet is specifically devoted to grazing and growing crops for animal consumption. Sure not all that land would be fit to grow crops for humans, but imagine how much land could be returned to its natural state if we didn’t have 24 billion extra mouths to feed.
Sure, there are a lot of vegetables that ought to be cooked in order to make the nutrients found within bioavailable. Raw food is not necessarily more healthy then cooked and therefore I would not recommend a 100% raw diet, as they have been demonstrated to be often lacking.
At this point in the interview, Lierre veers the conversation into a very bizarre direction by calling plants “the original warfare people” with babies that have wants, desire, knowledge. Plants, especially the ones we grow for human consumption, show no signs of anything we would consider sentience, sapience, or the capacity to have desires or thoughts. They lack a central processing organ like a brain. They lack a nervous system that transmits signals of pain and pleasure. If plants have some rudimentary sentience, it is well beyond our capacity to observe. Lierre belies a motive in speak about plants in such anthropomorphic terms. She wants to suggest that vegans are just as immoral to kill a kale plant as a meat eater is to kill a cow. This is akin to a religious apologist claiming that atheists have faith too, and are thus on an equal playing field. This is just ridiculous. The reason sentience evolved into animals is because it afforded us a survival advantage. Sentience is an animals ability to consciously interact with the world around it. Escape dangers and find pleasures. Since plants are affixed to the ground, they have no means of escape. A plant with sentience would just sit there screaming in silence as it was consumed because it would not have no means of even moving an inch. Plants with or without sentience would have equal chances of survival, so sentience would not provide a benefit.
Here is a classic example of the naturalistic fallacy. That which is deemed natural is good. Since our ancient ancestors ate a certain way, we therefore should learn from them and follow their lead. Im sorry to break this to you, but our ancestors were primitive beings who knew next to nothing about the world, and nutrition, and did what they could to survive. It would make as much sense to eat as our ancestors did, as it would to adopt their ideas of morality. We know more about nutrition now then at any point in our history so it makes absolutely no sense to romanticize the past in an attempt to justify today’s barbarism. On the point about indigenous people today living in hunter gatherer communities. They are mostly very isolated groups of people with no formal education living with past-down knowledge accumulated through the generations. No great insights are found here on how we ought to live.
Crumbling bones, falling out teeth and stunted growth. Are you frightened yet? You shouldn’t be. If the picture that Lierre was painting was accurate, human civilization ought to have died out centuries ago. Farming has been with us for tens of thousands of years, replacing the need for humans to be dependent on hunting animals for survival. Her comments are nothing more then utilizing fear to manipulate an audience to believe that humans ought to return to the diet of our ancient ancestors.
Everyday you can find a new study, often taken out of context by the media, making all sorts of claims regarding what foods are good and what foods are bad for us. Some of those studies are paid for by industries that have a monetary incentive to receive a favorable result. Journalists, who are not medical or dietary professionals, write news articles with eye grabbing titles in order to grab the public’s attention, all in an effort to sell advertising space. Lierre is no better. She clearly doesn’t understand the science of nutrition as is demonstrated with her assertion that saturated fat is actually good for us. All major health organizations recommend the limiting of saturated fat consumptions.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fats – which are found in butter, cheese, red meat and other animal-based foods. Decades of sound science has proven it can raise your “bad” cholesterol and put you at higher risk for heart disease.
Again, I take my dietary advice from dietary and medical professionals with the backing of peer reviewed research.
Does domestication of animals provide them with some benefits? Yes definitely, if we are speaking in grander terms taking the species as a whole. Animal agriculture has ensured that the domesticated animals will not go extinct because as long as the animals are useful to us, further generations will be bred into existence. This says nothing however about the individual animals suffering under confinement, often with aliments, living a fraction of the life they would otherwise have lived in the wild.
A return to the discussion about plants and her bizarre anthropomorphic language. Plants don’t have thoughts and desires about working with humans for the benefit of their survival. Just more of the same nonsense where Lierre attempts to level the moral playing field by suggesting that plants are sentient and therefore to kill them would be just as bad as killing a sentient animal. Ugh. Lets keep going…we are almost done.
Meat eaters taunt vegans about plant sentience because they don’t have a valid rational argument against veganism, and therefore stoop to all sorts of ridiculous levels in order to justify their dietary choices. Even if it were true that the plants we eat were in some way sentient, it would still make sense to be a vegan due to the conservation of energy. Let me explain. If we grow a crop of plants to feed farmed animals, it will take a lot of plant material to grow the animal. There surely will be wasted energy as a lot of the calories consumed by the animal will go towards keeping the animal warm, alive, and into non-consumable body parts such as bone, hair, cartilage and organs. If instead we ate the plants directly, we essentially cut out the middle man and use the plant calories directly for our survival. Far fewer plants are killed by a vegan then by a meat eater eating a farmed animal.
Lastly, while our intelligence as a species allows us to kill as apex predators, we are dependent on tools for success. In a one-on-one fight between a true apex predator and a human, with nothing but our hands, we loose every time. Predators generally kill their prey because of necessity. They kill in order to survive. Humans bodies do not require animal flesh or secretions to be healthy, and so regardless of our technical capabilities, killing animals for food should be a thing of our past.